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California DMV Point System

Per the rules of the California demerit point system, a certain number of traffic violation points are added to a driver's record when the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) receives reports of traffic convictions or collisions. The amount of the resulting penalty points generally varies based on the severity of the offense. In addition to a higher driving points count, more serious infractions will also result in steep fine penalties and jail sentences. Learn more about the CA point system and how to fight a speeding ticket and other types of citations by reading the following sections:

  • Moving violations and points in California
  • Penalties in California
  • How to fix a driving record in California
  • Disputing a moving violation charge in California

Moving Violations and Points in California

The DMV assigns demerit points in California for a wide range of violations, according to the state Vehicle Code. By accumulating a certain number of speeding ticket points or other types of infraction points, drivers will also be penalized under the rules of the DMV Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS). The following list outlines several offenses and their corresponding moving violation points in CA:

  • Exceeding the posted speed limit: 1 speeding ticket point.
  • Disobeying a traffic officer: 1 point.
  • Operating a vehicle in a reckless manner: 2 reckless driving points.
  • Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol: 2 DUI points.

Operators of standard vehicles are generally penalized with zero to two driver violation points in CA. Commercial drivers, on the other hand, receive moving violation points in the amount of 1 ½ times the normal value. Therefore, while regular drivers are assessed two DUI points for a driving under the influence offense, commercial drivers will receive three points for the same violation.

Drivers who accumulate four penalty points within 12 months, six points within 24 months or eight points within 36 months, will be penalized with a driving license suspension.

Penalties in California

Certain California traffic violation penalties are administered when drivers violate the state motor vehicle laws, in addition to the accumulation of demerit points on their driving records. Note that a traffic ticket penalty generally varies based on the severity of the violation. While the standard speeding ticket penalties are typically issued in the form of a specific traffic fine, drivers who operate a vehicle while intoxicated may receive several DUI penalties in CA. For instance, a first DUI offense may result in any combination of the following drunk driving penalties:

  • A jail sentence of up to six months
  • A fine ranging from $390 to $1,000
  • An immediate driving license suspension
  • Enrolling in a DUI program
  • Installing an ignition interlock device
  • Filing the mandatory proof of insurance (Form SR-22)

California reckless driving penalties are issued for another type of serious violations within the state. If you are convicted of driving recklessly, you may be sentenced with a fine of up to $1,000 and a six-month jail sentence.

How to Fix a Driving Record in California

Completing a driving safety course in California in order to reduce license points on a driving transcript is an option that is not currently available to drivers within the state. The CA DMV will clean your driving record after a specific time period. Penalty points assigned for minor moving violations, for example, will remain on your record for 39 months. DUI points, on the other hand, may remain on your record for up to 13 years.

Even if you may be unable to clear your driving record by completing a defensive driving course, you may still be able to avoid a traffic violation conviction and the resulting driving points by enrolling in one. However, a CA driver improvement course, known as a traffic violation course, can only be used to mask a minor violation citation. Convictions of major driving while intoxicated offenses, which result in two DWI points, cannot be dismissed by completing a traffic school program.

Note: This method of dismissing a conviction can only be utilized once in an 18-month period by holders of regular non-commercial driving licenses.

Disputing a Moving Violation Charge in California

The process of fighting a speeding ticket in California and other types of traffic citations can be initiated by pleading "not guilty" to the charges and requesting a trial date. Drivers may be able to start the procedure to contest traffic tickets via various methods, such as in person, by mail or by phone. Depending on your circumstances, you may also be asked to pay the traffic ticket penalty fine associated with the citation prior to the start of the trial. If you successfully dispute a speeding ticket or another type of citation, the funds will be returned to you.

Before appearing at the trial, prepare for contesting a speeding ticket in CA by engaging the services of a traffic ticket lawyer, collecting any supporting evidence and contacting any reliable witnesses. If you are found guilty, the court will issue you the appropriate traffic violation penalties and the conviction will be reported on your driving record.

Note: Drivers may also have the option of appealing a traffic ticket in California by submitting a written declaration. In such cases, you will not be required to appear at court.

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